82 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

The Boy at The Top of the Mountain

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2015

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Important Quotes

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“Although Pierrot Fischer’s father didn’t die in the Great War, his mother, Émilie, always maintained it was the war that killed him.” 

(Chapter 1, Page 3)

The opening lines of the novel emphasize the lingering impact of violence, and of war in particular. On a personal level, Émilie’s thought pinpoints war as the root of Wilhelm’s struggles with mental health, alcoholism, and abusive behavior. Beatrix later confirms this when she tells Pierrot about the trauma Wilhelm experienced in World War I. His struggles position Wilhelm as representative of a generation of disenfranchised Germans, whose experiences of loss and frustration were manipulated by Nazi ideology.  

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“‘I don’t like those moments, either’ said Papa quietly. ‘But sometimes it’s as if a dark cloud has settled over me and I can’t get it to move on. That’s why I drink. It helps me forget.’ ‘Forget what?’ ‘The war. The things I saw.’ He closed his eyes as he whispered, ‘The things I did.’”

(Chapter 1, Page 9)

Wilhelm refuses to share his war experiences, even arguing with Émilie when she confronts him about them. Yet, in this rare moment of personal confession, he opens up to Pierrot about why he behaves the way he does. In terms of the entire arc of the novel, Wilhelm’s escape from his problems and refusal to come to terms with his regrets contrasts with Pierrot’s decision to make amends for his own wrongdoings as the novel closes. 

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“‘You must never underestimate how kind people can be, Pierrot.’ ‘Or how cruel,’ muttered Simone from behind her desk.” 

(Chapter 2, Page 35)

The Durand’s orphanage does not provide Pierrot with a home or community that is exactly secure or nurturing, but Simone and Adèle do their best to provide and care for him. This includes sharing some words of wisdom and